Mumbai Travel Guide
There are so many things to see and do in India, but now there’s one more tourist destination to add to your itinerary. The first Starbucks has opened up in the country, and now they’re ready to pump out overpriced lattes and coffee milkshakes to the masses—of course we mean that it the nicest possible way.
The caffeine invasion begins in Mumbai, as that’s coffee shop number one. There’s an ambitious expansion plan already in place, as Starbucks along with their local partner look to open a couple more places before the end of the year. Initially the plan was to eventually have more than 3,000 locations around the country, and we’re thinking that it’s doable once the locals get a taste of their very first pumpkin spice latte or peppermint mocha. Since those first projections back in January the company has kind of stepped back a little bit, but the New Delhi location is still set to do its thing early next year.
Tom Cruise spent a whirlwind weekend in India, taking part in everything from a photo-op at the Taj Mahal to an all-night party in Mumbai, but it's his "fans" who are making headlines overseas.
According to the Hindustan Times, hundreds of the fans who were waiting for Cruise to arrive at the Mumbai Airport weren't fans at all, but rather "junior artists" being paid 150 INR ($3) for the day. One of the "fans" even admitted she never heard of Tom Cruise before arriving at the airport for her paid gig. That's a bit farfetched (who hasn't heard of Tom Cruise), but let's go with it.
Obama-Around-The-World / Presidential Travel / Barack Obama / Mumbai Travel / Political Travel / India Travel / Air Force One / → All Tags
Despite that whole $200 million/day vacation trip myth clouding President Obama's visit to India this weekend, it looks as though the brief stop in Mumbai went off without a hitch. Mr. and Mrs. Obama arrived to India for a 3-day stop as part of an Asian tour to talk foreign economic relations.
Hopefully they caught some Zzzs onboard Air Force One, because over the weekend while in both New Delhi and Mumbai, they dropped by the Holy Name High School and another elementary and college for Diwali celebrations, Humayan's Tomb (pictured above) for some sightseeing, Mumbai's port for a speech, and Mani Bhawan Gandhi Museum (for Barack) and Kamathipura (for Michelle) for goodwill. On top of all this, the pair stayed at the Taj Mahal Hotel, where they visited the memorial to those killed in the terrorist attacks on hotels almost exactly two years ago.
Today, Barack will address Indian parliament before flying off to his next stop, Indonesia. The next week will also see the Obamas landing in South Korea and Japan.
[Update 10am November 5] It is finally coming out that the $200 million pricetag is "wildly inflated, " says the White House and that the original press release that communicated these numbers was based solely on an unverified statement by an Indian provincial official. Anderson Cooper on CNN delves into the report and states that the White House is not releasing numbers for security reasons, however, in the 90s, President Clinton's visited 6 African countries to the tune of $5 million per day (inflation adjusted), so one way to guesstimate the cost of this India trip is to extrapolate from the cost of Clinton's trip. Remember, at the end of the day, we are all still guessing at the number until it is officially released.
We hope you aren't planning on traveling to Mumbai, India this weekend, as President Obama is planning to visit the city for a whopping 24 hours, during which time Mumbai air space will be shut down for periods and the city will be on heavy alert. In fact, with all the needed security, the accommodations and the full media and tactical teams that are accompanying the prez, the cost of Obama's little daytrip to india has the heart attack pricetag of $200 million dollars [new reports show that this figure is a guess made by an Indian official, see above].
That makes the Maldives 5-star bungalow vacations of celebs look like child's play and in effect, it is. $200 million is getting Obama a suite at the renowned Taj Hotel, plus his usual Air Force One flight and all of the greased palms that it requires to make the state visit go over without incident. Barack is heading to Mumbai to talk economic foreign relations.
Airport Photo Shoot / Celeb Travel / Airports / Russell Brand / Katy Perry / Wedding Travel / India Travel / → All Tags
Katy Perry tried to hide behind her coat yesterday as she, and fiance Russell Brand, wheeled their luggage through Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. The couple seemed uncharacteristically dour as they arrived in India where their wedding will take place later this week. Cold feet perhaps?
Russell and Katy will be joined by 85 of their closest friends and family for a week long celebration, at the luxurious Rambagh Palace in Jaipur, the same venue where the couple was engaged earlier this year.
We tend to think of Paris or Florence as the places to go for an art hit, but India's largest city Mumbai might be the up-and-coming spot. A new art gallery has just opened there and wants to start showing off India's huge art tradition to the world.
The Gallery BMB is one of the first new galleries in India for a long timethe few that do exist are mostly from British colonial timesbut the directors predict it will be the first of many more. It will showcase art from international artists as well as encourage emerging Indian artists to make a name for themselves.
A lot of cruises offer snorkeling or other underwater entertainment as part of your ticket price. But what's there to see, and how will you know what you're looking at? Regent Seven Seas Cruises solves that problem by taking aboard Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the famous underwater ecologist who was the inspiration for Bill Murray's character in "The Life Aquatic."
The Mumbai-to-Cape Town includes a whopping nine days at sea, but that just means more opportunities to spot local wildlife under the sea. Cousteau will give lectures and show slideshows of his adventures with dad Jacques and carrying on his legacy, and a travel photographer will offer pointers on how to get the best pictures of that gorgeous coral.
True, a 19-night cruise pushes the limits of what most allotments of vacation days can provide. But you have time now to start hoarding your days off! Besides, everyone's still going on cruises, right?
· 19-Night India and Africa Cruise [Signature Travel Network]
· Also on Regent Seven Seas: Relive the Moon Landing on the High Seas [Jaunted]
· Cruising with Celebs coverage [Jaunted]
There probably isn't much dancing in the streets of Mumbai over the city's stalled public-private WiFi project. The resultant cloud of connectivity wouldn't have been free to local residents, but it would have cost just Rs 50 ($1) to get hooked up -- a bargain compared to the cost of installing an Internet connection in a business or private residence.
Sadly, the dream of cheap Internet access exploded with the terrorist attacks last November, and now police are actively working to shut down open WiFi networks in case people who bear the city ill will try to use them. At least at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, you can buy access through Tata Indicom at the price of Rs 57 ($1.11) for 50 minutes -- slightly cheaper than it would have cost on the city network that now will never be.
Found a signal so clear it makes you say "Jai Ho"? Let us know.
· BMC's Rs 50 plan to make Mumbai WiFi-enabled [Times of India]
· After Mumbai, Will India Ban Google Earth? [Jaunted]
· Police in India sweep for unsecured Wi-Fi networks [Network World]
· Airport WiFi Map [Jaunted]
We wondered last month whether Slumdog Millionaire jaunts through Mumbai's slums were inspiring or exploitative, and now the London Paper is back from India with a full report on Reality Tours and Travel's excursion through the Dharavi slums where the movie is set. The verdict? Well, still complicated. Aspects of it do sound like kind of a creep-tastic thing to do:
...walking down the tightly packed warrens of the residential area seems hugely invasive. Families are packed into single rooms and squeezing past the open doorways feels like walking through someone’s living room – we hear the blast of a TV, mothers scolding their children and the clatter of pots and pans being cleared away…
First comes the critical accolades, next come the tourists: The same week "Slumdog Millionaire" got ten Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, a Mumbai company announced it would start offering the "Slumdog Experience," giving film lovers the chance to see the real-life neighborhoods in Danny Boyle's movie.
Reality Tours and Travel is no flash in the pan: The joint India-English owned company was founded two years ago to introduce visitors to the Dharavai slum outside of Mumbai. Cameras are not allowed and visitors travel on foot in order to be as inconspicuous as possible, with the guides speaking to local residents as they travel.
Of course anyone who has seen "Slumdog Millionaire," in which our hero works for a spell as a tour guide in Agra, knows the, er, perils of shady operators on the road. But we're liking the do-gooder aspect of pumping the profits from these tours (a 2.5-hour trip is $10) back into the surrounding communities, including into an associated NGO providing vocational training and English lessons. It seems like a better way to enact change than, say, trying to win a milli on a national game show.
· Slum Tours [Reality Tours and Travel]
· Slumdog Millionaire: The Experience [Faded Youth Blog]
· Slum Visits: Tourism or Voyeurism? [NYTimes article via Realitytoursandtravel.com]
· Movie Set Travel coverage [Jaunted]
Google Earth, the magical software that makes real life more like Second Life, may have been used in the planning of the recent terrorist assault on Mumbai, says a lawyer who has filed suit in the Bombay High Court. He's hoping that the Indian government will order a "complete ban on Google Earth and similar sites like Wikimapia" in the interest of national security.
Indian officials have previously expressed concerns about security and mapping software, as in 2006 when then-President Abdul Kalam warned about Google Earth and its utility to terrorists. The search giant agreed in 2007 to blur out some imagery that India deemed sensitive, but that clearly didn't include tourist-friendly venues in the heart of Mumbai.
To us, this is a case of "guns don't kill people, people do." Even the areas worldwide already blurred out by Google are listed on the internet, and making photos of "sensitive" facilities--whatever that means--difficult to obtain doesn't eliminate threats. But the band of terrorists in Mumbai wasn't looking to take out a secret military installation; their goals were massive chaos, a high body count and as much media exposure as possible.
As to whether an eventual ban on Google Earth will help stem violence in India, a company spokesman tells The Telegraph:
Tools such as Google Earth are built from information that is already available from both commercial and public sources, and it is important to remember that the same information is available to anyone who purchases imagery from those public sources.
[Photo of the Bombay High Court: Google Earth]
The unbelievably destructive, three-day assault on Mumbai is now over, and the city is still in shock as Indian officials, reporters and locals alike try to piece together what exactly happened and who was responsible. Meanwhile foreign governments are warning citizens to stay away.
The US State Department--soon to be led by Hillary Clinton!--is warning Americans "to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness" while in India, and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office "advise[s] against all but essential travel to Mumbai until further notice."
Mumbai now finds itself in the company of Bali, Istanbul, London, New York and Madrid, all places with booming tourism industries that were threatened by an act of terrorism. But despite the understandable fear of heading to the city, things are already getting back to normal, says the IHT's Globespotters blog, with cabs trolling the streets, trains running and some restaurants and hotels open again. Many cafes and hotels in South Mumbai, near the sites of the attacks, though, are still closed.
[Photo: Ninad Chaudhari]